The History of the Ephrata Fair

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The History of the Ephrata Fair

Posted on October 6, 2020 by Lisa Willwerth

Discover how the Ephrata Fair came to be over the years!

Each year as the temperature grows chillier and fall comes upon us, area residents eagerly anticipate the annual Ephrata Fair. There’s nothing quite like eating fried fair food, amusement rides, and admiring the local harvest and handiwork. Sadly, 2020’s Ephrata Fair is canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As we looking forward to next year’s 5-day event, we’re paying tribute to the fair by sharing the story of how it came to be as well as notable events throughout its history.

How Ephrata Fair Came to Be

The Ephrata Fair began as a joyful fall homecoming for local heroes! In 1919, the first Ephrata Fair took place as a welcome home celebration for troops returning from in World War I. This makes it Lancaster County’s oldest fair out of seven!

Locals added a farm harvest celebration to the event in 1920 and in 1922 it officially became the Ephrata Farmers Day Fair. While it used to be a single-day event, planners extended it to span three days. The fair then expanded to four days in 1932 as everyone looked forward to it so much! Today the Ephrata fair takes place over a 5-day period, usually Tuesday through Saturday.

Photo from Ephrata Fair “Sheep to Shawl” Event

Ephrata residents take pride in celebrating their community during the fair and enjoy sharing the festivities with visiting crowds! Travelers from near and far visit the fair to admire Ephrata agriculture and livestock which includes poultry, goats, sheep, swine, dairy beef, and much more. At the vegetable and grain exhibitions locals can showcase the best of their seasonal crops. Artists of all types including local bakers and chefs can enter annual contests to showcase their skills.

Photo from Ephrata Fair Tomato Contest

The Parade

In 1932, the fair organizers—officially known as the Ephrata Farmers Day Association—added a parade to the event. Today the fair’s parade is one of its most anticipated events and features local talent, floats, and first responders. The parade is made up of fire trucks, musical artists, marching bands, the area high school’s homecoming court, baton twirlers, and more. You’ll even see various community figures and local businesses represented by colorfully decorated floats!

Photo from Ephrata Fair Day Parade Event

Notable Events

As far as notable events go, two historic happenings stand out.

Evelyn Air Sempier, an Ephrata High School graduate, was crowned Miss Ephrata Fair and Lancaster County’s Tobacco Queen in 1950. Her pageant success extended well beyond our town and county when in 1953 Evelyn went on to become Miss Pennsylvania. Then, in 1954, she went on to win the Miss America pageant! She traveled over 270,000 miles during her reign and afterward was a judge for several other pageants.

Photo of Miss America 1954 Evelyn Air Sempier

Another Ephrata Fair attraction that drew visitors from near and far was Fat Albert the Rat! From 1970-2007, Fat Albert would spin in a wheel while spectators guessed the color of the hole that he would climb out of once the wheel stopped spinning. While Fat Albert and his owners have since retired, the attraction still brings fond memories to this day.

Photo from Lancaster Online Fair Facts Article

We hope you enjoyed learning a bit about the Ephrata Fair and its history. We’re looking forward to the 102nd Ephrata Fair which will take place September 21-25 in 2021!